Every 1 pound spent on public health in UK saves average of 14 pound

March 29, 2017

Every £1.00 spent on public health returns an extra £14 on the original investment, on average—and in some cases, significantly more than that—concludes a systematic review of the available evidence, published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

The recent cuts made to public budgets in the UK are therefore a "false " and are set to cost an already overstretched NHS and the wider economy "billions," conclude the researchers, who warn other countries to think again before going down a similar route to claw back cash.

Prompted by recent rounds of austerity measures in high income countries on what are often perceived as 'soft targets' for cuts, the researchers decided to find out the average return on investment (ROI) for a range of .

They therefore trawled research databases to identify studies that had calculated an ROI for local and national public health initiatives and/or had worked out the overall value for money of a project or proposal—otherwise known as the cost-benefit ratio, or CBR for short.

Out of nearly 3000 articles, they found 52 suitable studies, published over four decades, and covering 29 different different types of relating to the UK, Western Europe, the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

These included initiatives designed to protect the public's health or promote good health, as well as legislation.

Critical analysis of the data from these studies showed that the average ROI for a public health initiative was 14.3 for every unit cost spent on it, while the average CBR was 8.3.

When the overall impact of all 29 interventions was assessed, the ROI on local initiatives was 4.1, meaning that every £1 spent returns £4 plus the original £1 investment, while the average CBR was 10.3.

Even larger benefits accrued for national policies, reported by 28 studies. Analysis of the data from these showed that the average ROI was 27.2 while the average CBR was 17.2.

Their results "clearly demonstrate that public health interventions are cost-saving, both to health services as well as the wider economy," write the researchers, who point out that some interventions can produce substantial returns within 6 to 12 months—falls prevention, for example.

Furthermore, they calculate that the recent £200 million cuts to public health funding in the UK will cost more like eight times as much—£1.6 billion.

These figures prompt them to comment: "The UK government's 'efficiency savings' thus represent a false economy which will generate many billions in additional future costs to the ailing NHS and wider UK economy."

They add: "The recent UK increases in (avoidable) teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, homelessness and suicides are thus predictable and worrying. Do they represent harbingers of worse to come?"

And they warn: "Although this study draws on the experience of the UK public health system, there are implications for public health systems outside of the UK, which may be guided towards areas of potential underinvestment, and avoid harmful cuts in budgets."

Explore further: Stop-smoking services under threat as budgets are cut

More information: Return on investment of public health interventions: a systematic review, Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, jech.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10.1136/jech-2016-208141

Related Stories

Stop-smoking services under threat as budgets are cut

November 16, 2016
Stop smoking services across England are facing ongoing budget cuts after six in ten local authorities (59 per cent) were forced to reduce their funding in the last year according to a new joint report by ASH and Cancer Research ...

Earned income tax credit program is a boon for health

September 7, 2016
A new study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health reports that the Earned Income Tax Credit program is not only good for people's pocketbooks, but also for their health. Findings showed that ...

California county health programs yield high returns

June 16, 2016
Return on investment in county public health departments in California exceeds return on investment in many other areas of medical care, according to a new study by a University of California, Berkeley economist.

BMJ investigation: Public health funds raided to fill holes in local authority budgets

March 26, 2014
A year after responsibility for public health was transferred from the NHS to local authorities, the BMJ found numerous examples of councils disinvesting in a wide range of public health services, including those for substance ...

Recommended for you

Amber-tinted glasses may provide relief for insomnia

December 15, 2017
How do you unwind before bedtime? If your answer involves Facebook and Netflix, you are actively reducing your chance of a good night's sleep. And you are not alone: 90 percent of Americans use light-emitting electronic devices, ...

Warning labels can help reduce soda consumption and obesity, new study suggests

December 15, 2017
Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

Office work can be a pain in the neck

December 15, 2017
Neck pain is a common condition among office workers, but regular workplace exercises can prevent and reduce it, a University of Queensland study has found.

Regular takeaways linked to kids' heart disease and diabetes risk factors

December 14, 2017
Kids who regularly eat take-away meals may be boosting their risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, suggests research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Simulation model finds Cure Violence program and targeted policing curb urban violence

December 14, 2017
When communities and police work together to deter urban violence, they can achieve better outcomes with fewer resources than when each works in isolation, a simulation model created by researchers at the UC Davis Violence ...

One in five patients report discrimination in health care

December 14, 2017
Almost one in five older patients with a chronic disease reported experiencing health care discrimination of one type or another in a large national survey that asked about their daily experiences of discrimination between ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.